The Heat had one more game to finish a 4-game road trip in an emotional environment for former Raptors forward Chris Bosh and begin a much needed All-Star break immediately afterwards. Although the game was unnecessarily close down the stretch, the Heat outlasted the Raptors 103-95 to earn their 21st victory on the road this season and head into the break in a virtual tie with the Boston Celtics atop the Eastern Conference standings.
Just like I feared the first game in Cleveland was going to be worse than it really was, the same happened in Bosh's first return visit to Toronto. The hostility and jeers were pretty evident but there was also plenty of indifference and even some clapping and cheering from half the crowd when Bosh acknowledged them as he trotted off the court at the end of the game. Bosh didn't exactly lead his team to victory but he had yet another effective game and showed some aggressiveness as he mixed up his jumpers with some solid moves to the basket. Andrea Bargnani did outplay him in the fourth quarter as he kept making his shots but his one-dimensional game generated some sarcastic cheers from the crowd when he finally grabbed his first rebound of the game in the second half.
Dwyane Wade (28 points, 10-18 shooting, 7 rebounds) and LeBron James (23 points, 8-18 shooting, 13 rebounds, 8 assists) took turns taking over the Heat's offense but weren't as spectacular as they were during the Heat's best stretches of basketball the night before in Indiana. Wade was blocked four times in the game but otherwise took advantage of the Raptor's soft interior defense all night long. It's always a good sign when the two shy away from the three-point line (only LeBron tried and missed two of them) and stay aggressive instead. In fact, LeBron's only 2 field goals from outside the paint occurred in the first quarter. Wade only made one field goal in the perimeter and attempted only four of them for the game (all in the second half).
Erick Dampier continues to impress with his strong defensive presence around the rim. His size is one thing but his mobility keeps improving as the season continues and he's been able to protect the basket without resorting to fouling constantly. Even on offense he's been very active trying to tip rebounds and owns a pair of hands that actually are capable of catching basketballs thrown his way when he's free in the paint (ahem, Joel Anthony). As a late-season pickup with no training camp or preseason to get in shape and to understand the Heat's system, Dampier has shown he's worthy of a role in the playoffs.
Carlos Arroyo was dusted off for some quality minutes while Mike Miller sat this game out. It was mostly a forgettable experience with zero points, 3 assists and 3 rebounds in 16 minutes. Surprisingly, James Jones only played 7 minutes for the second game in a row despite Miller's absence. His performance at the 3-Point Shootout this weekend may be the last significant action Jones will receive for the rest of the season if he can't even get minutes in the rotation when the player who took his place isn't even playing. Mario Chalmers had a decent game but it's clear his role in the team at most should be in a reserve role. In comparison, no-frills Raptors PG Jose Calderon notched 14 assists in the loss. Could Wade be convinced to be the full-time point guard like he did during his rookie season?